ASIO and hundreds of police raid Sydney and Brisbane homes in biggest counter-terrorism raid in Australia’s history
POLICE say co-ordinated raids on homes across Brisbane’s south and in Sydney this morning were in response to threats of random attacks on members of the public, including the possible beheading of a random member of the public on a city street and mass shootings.
Fifteen people have been detained and one person charged with terrorism offences, following pre-dawn raids across Sydney and Brisbane, as part of a pre-emptive strike amid fears a suspected terror cell was close to launching an attack.
A Sydney court heard this afternoon that a man arrested during today’s raids was plotting a public execution on Sydney streets that was designed to horrify the community.
Omarjan Azari, 22, faced court on one count of committing an act in preparation or planning for a terrorist act.
Court documents show Azari is accused of conspiring with Mohammad Baryalei, who is known to have recruited Australians to fight with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, including wanted terrorists Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar.
Police remove a sword as part of evidence found at a residential property in the suburb of Marsfield, in Sydney.
Baryalei, a part-time actor who played a paramedic in the TV Underbelly series, has been identified as the most senior Australian member of IS.
He is believed to have fled the country to join the murderous rampage through the Middle East.
Azari was arrested this morning when hundreds of ASIO and heavily armed police officers swooped in anti-terrorism raids to prevent a mass casualty shooting in Sydney and possible beheadings.
Muhammad Ali Baryalei, a known member of an Islamic State who has fled the country, is believed to be behind the terror plot. Picture: ABC
Unconfirmed reports have also emerged that the groups may have been planning beheadings or mass shootings on home soil.
The ABC reports court documents expected to reveal the terror plan involved draping random Sydney person in Islamic State flag and beheading them on camera in Martin Place.
A similar attack was carried out on British Army soldier, Lee Rigby, in London, May 2013. when he was run down and butchered on a busy street by two men.
Police did say they believed extremists were planning a random attack on members of the public.
This afternoon Premier Campbell Newman revealed that last week’s terror raid may have thwarted an “onshore terrorist action”, with one of the men arrested understood to have been allegedly planning a terror attack somewhere in the state.
Mr Newman said “that at least one individual was contemplating onshore terrorist action” and stressed that the arrests were “very timely”.
It is understood the alleged plot was to be carried out in Queensland.
Fresh allegations are expected to emerge about one of the two men arrested in southeast Queensland last week over terror-related charges, Omar Succarieh and Agim Kruezi.
Speaking about today’s dramatic raids in NSW and southeast Queensland, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the two lots of probes were “directly” linked.
“When we briefed you previously in realtion to the arrests here in Queensland last week, the information you were provided with by both the police and the Premier at that time was accurate,” Commissioner Stewart said.
“It was factual in what we knew then. Since that time, we’ve come into possession of information, quite disturbing information, about the intention of at least one of the people presently in custody in this state. it was factual in what we knew then.”
Today’s, Queensland’s raids are undertstood to have been conducted to find out more about the alleged terror plot in Queensland.
The fresh allegations against the unknown Queensland man in custody are expected to emerge in court in NSW tomorrow.
Police arrest a man in Guilford this morning.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was briefed on the counter terror raids before officers swooped this morning.
The Prime Minister said there were “quite direct exhortations … coming from an Australian, who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country”.
“This is not just suspicion, this is intent,” he told reporters in Arnhem Land.
“There are, I regret to say, networks of people here in this country who, despite living here, despite enjoying the Australian way of life, they would do us harm.
“It’s very important that our police and security organisations be one step ahead of them and I think this morning they were.”
He praised the police operation and said he acknowledged some people believe Australia’s current involvement in Iraq makes us more of a threat.
“I understand that some people will claim that and I understand that some people will fear that, but let’s remember that Australians were subject to terror attack in Bali long before there was any talk of Australian involvement in Iraq.”
The only man charged during the raids so far has been named as 22-year-old Omarjan Azari, who faced a Sydney court today on one count of committing an act in preparation or planning for a terrorist act.
Azari, dressed in a navy hooded jacket and black pants, made a brief appearance in the dock of Central Local Court.
His lawyer Steve Boland told the court no application would be made for bail, and asked that his client be taken back down to the cells.
Commonwealth prosecutor Michael Allnutt said the allegations involved a plan to “kidnap a person and gruesomely execute” and that it was a plan “clearly designed to shock, horrify and clearly terrify the community.”
The court heard an “unusual level of fanaticism” was involved in the plan “which would leave a person less likely to take notice of a court order”, and therefore bail should be refused.
Mr Boland said the allegations were based on just “one phone call.”
The case was adjourned until November 13.
Documents before the court say Azari, in the early hours of May 8 this year “did conspire with Mohammad Baryalei and others to do acts in preparation for or planning a terrorist act.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the reports of what those arrested were allegedly planning are “truly horrifying”.
But the events should give Australians a “renewed sense of assurance” in the work of our security agencies.
“These raids will no doubt come as a shock to many Australians,” the Opposition Leader said.
“It’s a development that reminds us all how close to home the threat of terrorism can be.”
Australian Federal Police acting commissioner Andrew Colvin said the operation which resulted in Thursday’s raids began earlier this year.
“Police believe this group … have the intention and have started to carry out planning to commit violent acts here in Australia,” he said.
“Those violent acts particularly related to random acts against members of the public.’’
He said the operation was about police disrupting the potential for violence.
Mr Colvin said that three raids in the southeast Queensland suburbs of Logan, Underwood and Mount Gravatt East were linked to similar raids in the area last week.
“The warrants that you saw today are a follow up from that investigation, or a continuation of that investigation,” he said
Some of those taken into custody had already had their passports cancelled.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said “reasonable force” was used to detain one man. “Today’s operation reflects the reality of the threat that we actually face,” he said.
Mr Scipione said random attacks were planned.
“All of those plans that may have been on foot are thwarted,” he said.
Meanwhile, authorities are now concerned about possible public disorder as a result of the arrests and the revealing of details of an alleged plan to carry out a public beheading.
Officials are especially worried because many English-speaking senior Muslim community leaders are overseas on religious pilgrimage.
“The people who normally calm down the hotheads are not here,” the law enforcement source told the ABC.
More than 800 counter-terrorism police and ASIO officers swooped on homes in the early hours, with some of those detained believed to have links to the terror group Islamic State.
The arrests in Sydney follow months of surveillance of people linked to the terrorist group Islamic State, which has been cutting a barbaric path through Iraq and Syria.
The Australian Federal Police say a suspected terrorist cell “was close to an attack”.
NSW Police and Australian Federal Police at a search warrent at Bass Hill. Large numbers of Police have searched the house with the assistance of sniffer dogs and special operations Police. Pics Bill Hearne
Hundreds of police executed search warrants in Logan, Underwood and Mt Gravatt East along with the Sydney suburbs of Beecroft, Bellavista, Guildford, Merrylands, Northmead, Wentworthville, Marsfield, Westmead, Castle Hill, Revesby, Bass Hill and Regents Park.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has this morning confirmed raids took place in Brisbane and Logan this morning “in conjunction” with the terror raids across Sydney.
He refused to go into details of the raids but confirmed they were related to the operation in Sydney and involved both AFP officers and Queensland police.
Mr Stewart said more details about the Brisbane operation would be made public later today but said today’s raids would not have an impact on G20 saying security planning for the summit was already at an extremely high level.
Holland Park Mosque spokesman Ali Kadri said while he could not speak on behalf of the congregation, he was disappointed about the hysteria surrounding the raids.
He said while he had met the family who had been raided at Mt Gravatt East this morning, they did not attend the Holland Park Mosque.
“My feeling is simple, the government has to do their job but the hysteria the government is creating is something I am curious about and disappointed about,” Mr Kadri said.
“The hysteria is causing affliction within the community, we all want to see a safe and secure Australia and the threat to Australia comes from different things, and one is from people misusing Islam (but) also the hate crimes of the mosque being attacked, that also divides the community.”
Mr Kadri encouraged people to come to the Holland Park Mosque tomorrow between 3-4pm for a sausage sizzle and opening.
“The most important thing we want is for people to ask questions rather than using the media or social media as their source of information,” he said.
Another man is arrested in Guilford.
Last week, Brisbane man Omar Succarieh, 31, was arrested and charged with terrorism-related offences following a series of raids.
He’s accused of fundraising for Syria-based extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra and helping another man, Agim Kruezi, obtain funds to fight for a terror organisation overseas.
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Succarieh, who is due to apply for bail in court on Thursday, is believed to be the brother of Ahmed Succarieh, who reportedly became Australia’s first suicide bomber in Syria last year.
Logan man Kruezi, 22, has alleged links to the Islamic State group.
The raid follows the lifting of the national security alert level from medium to high last Friday by the outgoing director general of ASIO David Irvine.
One of the detained men in the pre-dawn raids in Sydney.
It is believed the size of the raid eclipsed that of Operation Pendennis in 2005 when several hundred ASIO, AFP and NSW police arrested 13 men across Melbourne and the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, who had been planning bomb attacks in both capitals.
In Brisbane, a double story house on Creek Road, Mount Gravatt East, was among the properties raided.
One neighbour said he had lived near the family, who he described as “Middle Eastern” for more than 20 years but had rarely communicated with them.
The man said he had only heard dogs barking during the morning raid.
A number of Australian Federal Police officers remain at the address.
It has not yet been confirmed whether any arrests have been made.
AFP and NSW police raid a house at Guildford. Pic: John Grainger
Residents on Toolooma St, Logan, said police had swarmed on a single-story house there just after 6am.
By all reports the raids were executed quietly, with no signs of shouting or loud noises during the operation.
Members of the Australian Federal Police attended the scene and a sniffer dog was used to search the premise.
However, very little – if anything – has been removed from the property.
Police raid a Toolooma St property in Logan
Neighbours said the family who lived there were always friendly.
“Every time I see the lady, she always says g’day to me,” one man said.
Residents said the man can often be seen in the front yard mowing the lawn in his wheelchair.
Police left the property about 10.40am.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the government was briefed on the raids this morning.
“I’ve got every confidence in both our state police and the Australian Federal Police to handle these issues properly,” Mr Seeney said.
“I think the community should share my confidence.”
Mr Seeney said he was also confident the security organised for the G20 would be able to cope with such issues.
“A high level of security has already been organised around G20 and I am confident that the people who are responsible for G20 security will have built into their security arrangements provisions for every scenario that may develop,” he said.
Senior government ministers were unable to shed more light on the raids, but praised the work of authorities.
“I note the security agencies, the Police, ASIO are working hard to ensure that we are safe,” Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull told ABC radio this morning.
“Our security is the consequence of continued vigilance and hard work on the part of the security agencies.
Police at the scene of a raid at Mt Gravatt East.
“There is no cause for being complacent about security.
“There are people, regrettably some of them in our midst, that don’t have the nation’s best interest at heart.”
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s G20 Finance Minister’s meeting in Cairns, Joe Hockey said he had confidence in the security measures in place.
“Everyone needs to make sure that with an increased threat level associated with potential terrorist attacks in Australia we have all the necessary precautions taken for both the G20 here in Cairns and also in Brisbane,” the Treasurer told Sunrise.
“But, I am very confident that all bases are covered.
“We have put a lot of effort into this for a long period of time.”
There are about 60 Australians believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria with groups such as Islamic State, while another 100 are suspected of providing support from Australia.
Where the raids took place in Brisbane
Where the raids were carried out in Sydney